|You didn’t think I meant the other kind of chocolate monkey, did you?
Oh look, you came back. Here, have a drink. Clive’s making Chocolate Monkeys today. Mmmm. For those of you who are new to The Edge, we’ve been running the Oracle Series, a follow-up to my guest blog post in Rita’s world. On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, we discussed the first four predictions that Carlos and I shared in the Writer’s Companion about where the publishing industry will be in ten years. For the entire list (so you can properly build your argument for or against our predictions) check out my guest post over in Rita’s World.
Yesterday, Rita took over The Edge to share her publishing story with us. It’s very interesting. You should go read that when you’re done here.
Let’s dive right into Prediction #5, shall we?
POD will shrink down to a tenth of its present size.
How is that possible with e-books taking over traditional publishing?
No, Carlos and I haven’t lost the few marbles we’ve managed to hang on to. Independent (self) and vanity publishing has existed since Guttenberg. There’s a difference between these two terms.
Independent or self-publishing has been the only recourse open to those writers who, by the nature of their work and its intended audience, couldn’t use the services of a traditional publisher. On page 585 of the Companion
, we point out that 10,000 copies is the minimum break-even figure for a traditional publisher.
Therefore, any book with a total audience of fewer than 10,000 readers is almost impossible to publish, unless the book retails for a small fortune. Writers who create books for small groups, or touch specialized subjects (such as how to care for your suit of armor) have known this unpalatable fact from time immemorial. Poetry and family histories are often published independently, as they have a limited market. These books will continue to be printed on demand or published in small runs because there’s no other option.
Vanity publishing is another matter. One of the best descriptions of the practice we’ve ever read is from an anonymous contributor to Wikipedia:
“While a commercial publisher’s intended market is the general public, a vanity publisher’s intended market is the author.”
We think the quote is self-explanatory. When the millions of writers out there learn that self-publishing without the backing of good editors and better distributors is a chimera, POD will dwindle to pre-Internet-era values. Everything will once again be right in the Universe.
Why? Because there won’t be this rush to publish shit that we’re experiencing right now. Writers who give a damn will slow down, polish their work and those who don’t, well they’re the tenth that will still use POD services. It is what it is and what it always will be.
Wow, how’s that for deep and completely meaningless?
What do you think? How do you see POD in ten years? If it doesn’t shrink, will this be bad or good for writers?
Come back tomorrow for predictions 6 through 8. They’re good ones. Oh, and bring your hunger. Clive’s been cooking.